The American Public Health Association (APHA) expressed “gratitude and relief” over the U.S. Senate’s passage yesterday of a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded through Dec. 9 – a move which would provide $1.1 billion to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus in fiscal year 2017.

“We strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass the bill without delay,” the group  said in a statement.

More than 23,000 cases of Zika have been confirmed in the U.S. and U.S. territories since 2015, including more than 100 non-travel related infections in Florida. The virus causes microcephaly and other major fetal birth defects, and has been strongly associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

A public health "disaster"

"Yes, this is eight months overdue, but we appreciate Congress putting politics aside in the face of a public health disaster," said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. "Those of us who work in public health knew the risks of population harm were multiplying before today.

"Now, our core public health agencies will be better equipped to conduct laboratory and surveillance work, prevent Zika from spreading and provide lifesaving services for pregnant women and children."

Since President Barack Obama outlined a Zika funding plan in February, APHA has worked with its 50,000 members and other health advocates to elevate the importance of a comprehensive and adequately funded national response.

A long road ahead

"I’d like to especially thank all of the APHA members, our Affiliates and all of our other colleagues in the public health community who spoke to their members of Congress and urged them to provide adequate funding to ensure that we have the resources to combat this public health emergency,” Benjamin said. “Experience tells us that we have a long road ahead of us, but we’ll work day and night until Zika in America is a thing of the past."